Yesterday, this (ironically) viral video caught my attention:
(If you’re looking for cliff notes of the video, click here for the back story and then keep reading).
I had never followed Essena O’Neill’s accounts, but was struck by the honesty, vulnerability and power in her message.
I’ve talked with a lot of friends in recent months about how isolating New York can feel. You walk onto any subway car during rush hour, and it’s as if we’re all cyborgs — glued to our smartphones, headphones in ears, doing everything we can to zone out the rest of the world. We’re together, but completely alone. And I’m guilty of this as much as the next person; it’s so much easier to engage in the virtual world than it is to engage in our physical world. But what kind of impact is this having? How is this shaping us as people?
I don’t actively use Snapchat, but I am constantly on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. My iPhone is the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning, and the last thing I check before going to sleep at night. My job requires that I stare at a computer screen all day, and then, as soon as I leave my office for the evening, I’m staring at my phone. I am living in a screen more often than not nowadays — and just the idea of that is truly scary and jarring.
I’m not a luddite here to say that all social media is bad, let’s band together and stop the train before we lose touch with humanity entirely; rather, the thing I’ve noticed in myself is a complete lack of awareness of the time I spend being on these platforms. It’s all second nature at this point — I never have to worry about being bored or without entertainment, because as long as I have my smartphone, there will always be a new image to see, a new post to read, a new article, a new video, etc. etc. I am never disconnected, but at the same time, I am rarely connecting with what’s truly important: other people, nature, myself. In order to do this, one must remove distractions, and social media is a constant, unending stream of distractions.
Now some might argue that this post and our blog is just a contribution to the greater issue. This is where I make a case for the other side of the argument — there are times when social media can have a truly positive impact. Aditi and I decided to start this blog 5 months ago with just two people in mind: ourselves. We both find writing a totally cathartic process, and we never publish anything that doesn’t feel authentically us. As millennials, we constantly have to remind ourselves to let go of the pressure that comes with trying to build a “brand” or following, and really focus on what’s at the core of this platform.
With all this in mind, I am challenging myself to a social media detox — a push to be more responsible and conscientious about the way I spend my time both on and offline. This “detox” is in no way meant to dictate how anyone else should live their life; putting it in writing is more a way to hold myself accountable for what I plan to do. Here are the little changes I want to make to start “reconnecting” with the world (and feel free to share any other ideas you have):
- start reading hard copy books during my morning and evening commute (skip the headphones entirely)
- turn my phone onto airplane mode an hour before going to sleep every night; keep it set until I’ve brushed my teeth the next morning
- check Facebook twice a day, for five minutes, max
- check Instagram twice a day, for five minutes, max
These might not seem like major, life altering changes, but compared to the way I’ve been living, I think they will be challenging and will hopefully make a difference in my attitude and the way I see the world around me. I am thankful to Essena O’Neill for this wake up call; to learn more about her story and her mission, click here.